The Booker Visual and Performing Arts program presents Pippin, April 14-16. Here's our Q&A with Booker VPA director Scott Keys. (You can also get a behind-the-scenes look at a Booker production in "High School Musical," which appeared in our April issue.)
Tell us about Pippin.
Pippin is loosely based on an actual character from history, Prince Pippin, son of Charlemagne. There are many legends about him. This one is basically a coming-of-age story. Here’s this young prince just out of school, and he wants to find meaning so he sets off on a quest. He’s got no good adult role models—his father is a drunkard barbarian, his mother is devious and his brother is a jerk. So he stumbles through his quest and keeps failing.
This story speaks to young people, even college students, when you graduate with this degree and think, “What do I do now?”
The students see it as a very contemporary piece, which is funny because The Apple Tree [on Broadway in 1966, and Booker’s fall 2015 musical production] and Pippin  were not [originally] on Broadway that far apart, but Stephen Schwartz has a much more contemporary style.
What’s this production like?
We’re doing it on a chessboard, where we’re not sure if the Leading Player [a narrator of sorts] is Pippin’s opponent or his mentor, and we don’t know what exactly he’s trying to guide Pippin towards.
During the show, the chess board comes up and becomes these sort of blocks. The biggest challenge so far has been getting those blocks moved around. It’s one of those things where I get into tech rehearsal, and I’m like, “Why was I thinking this was a good idea?”
How has this year been for the Booker VPA?
It’s been a great year. We’ve been recognized by the FTC [Florida Theatre Conference] and the SETC [Southeastern Theatre Conference]. We’ve just been getting all these little kudos and recognition.
The week after Pippin we’re taking our senior class to New York. We won a contest: The Broadway show Something’s Rotten wanted to promote Shakespeare in high schools, so they challenged high schools around the country to create a video using choreography based on a number in the show. Our senior class won this national contest, so we received 33 tickets to Something’s Rotten.
Any ideas on what you’ll present next year?
Traditionally we get through the spring musical, and as I’m sitting there watching, I say to myself, “I know what I want to do next year.” Sort of like I can’t think about it until the last show is up.
We’ve tossed around ideas all year long, but we haven’t made any decisions yet.